Steelers Shamarko Thomas doesn't need Troy Polamalu present to ask him questions

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The veteran's advice to the second-year safety is usually the same, writes Mark Kaboly. "Get in your playbook."

Much ado (or maybe a medium level of ado) is made over the need for recently acquired free safety Mike Mitchell and Troy Polamalu to bond on the field. Polamalu's absence at the Steelers' first three OTAs may have limited him in doing that, but all it shows is Mitchell isn't the most resourceful member of the Steelers' secondary.

That's probably why he hasn't earned the nickname "Headache."

Second year safety Shamarko Thomas doesn't accept Polamalu's absence as a barrier to learning from the six-time Pro Bowl safety. Tribune Review reporter Mark Kaboly writes in his notebook column Friday Thomas has been in constant contact with Polamalu, and the young buck is taking note from the sage mentor.

"I talk to him all the time," Thomas said, according to Kaboly. "He keeps telling me to get in that playbook, and that's what I am doing."

Thomas earned the nickname "Headache" last year because the veterans on the team said he was constantly asking them questions and requesting advice. Perhaps that hasn't changed, even after one season in the NFL. At the same time, only the truly ignorant young defensive back - or football player in general - would pass on the chance to seek counsel from one of the best safeties ever to play the game.

Thomas needs it, too. He's at a critical point in his career. The team could have parted ways with Polamalu, inserting Thomas into his long-held starting position, but instead, they signed Polamalu to an extension and signed the free agent Mitchell.

That isn't a knock against Thomas, though. Part of the reason the Steelers are optimistic about their coverage defensive backs heading into 2014 is because of Thomas, their most recent experiment into the new hybrid S/CB - a player who can cover the slot receiver while still bringing the level of run support expected in a safety. The presence of those kinds of players in sub packages can be a weapon against the no-huddle-crazed offensive philosophy of many teams.

It's a bit harder to catch the Steelers in an unbalanced personnel package on defense. Thomas is making sure it's a bit harder for Polamalu to ignore him.

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